nonfiction november readalongs

One of my big goals for this year’s Nonfiction November — a month-long celebration of great nonfiction I’m co-hosting with Leslie (Regular Rumination), Katie (Doing Dewey) and Rebecca (I’m Lost In Books) — was to find a way for people who are not bloggers to participate. I love the discussion posts, but I think that format can be difficult for people who don’t have an online space of their own.

After some discussion, we decided that a readalong might be a way to open up the event to even more readers. We each picked a book we were excited about and polled all of you to see which book you’d be interested in reading with us.

After about a week, it became clear that there was a lot of interest in two of the four titles: The Restless Sleep by Stacy Horn and Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff. Rather than pick just one, we decided we would host separate readalongs for both books. Leslie and I will be hosting the readalong for The Restless Sleep and Katie and Rebecca will be in charge of Cleopatra.

They’ll both be low-key, with discussion/links posts going up on Wednesday, Nov. 19. We picked that date because we thought it would give people enough time to read the book while still wrapping up before the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. If you are a blogger, feel free to link up a review to that post. If you’re a reader, we’ll be doing discussion in the comments. We’ll also be trying to do some discussion of each book throughout the month on Twitter using the hashtag #nonficnov.

And to be clear, we’re not expecting people to do two readalongs (unless you want to, then go ahead, that’s amazing!). And if you don’t want to readalong, that’s ok too — we have the weekly discussion topics that are part of the celebration too. We want it to be low-key and fun and interesting for everyone. If either of these books sound appealing, I hope you’ll join us!

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without you there is no us by suki kimI love to read books that take me to places I will never get to see, or help illuminate cultures that, without an engaging guide, I will never have a chance to understand. One of my favorite books from 2013 that did just that was Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy, a look at lives of ordinary people in North Korea based on interviews with a growing community of North Koreans who escaped and defected to South Korea. I thought it was a remarkable book.

I revisited life in North Korea last month through a memoir focusing on an entirely different sect of North Korean society – the sons of elite members of the ruling class.

Without You, There Is No Us is a reported memoir, based on journals that author Suki Kim started to keep in 2002. Kim, a native of South Korea who emigrated to the United States with her parents when she was 13, visited North Korea several times between 2008 and 2011 before getting hired to teach English at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology in 2011. At the time, PUST was the only operating university in the country – all other college students were doing forced labor for the year.

To get the job, Kim had to pose as a Christian missionary and hide her notes and experience as a journalist (most of the faculty and staff at PUST are missionaries, although they don’t explicitly try to convert the students). During the six months that Kim taught at PUST, she built cautious relationships with her students and tried to give them glimpses of the world outside of North Korea, but may not have been able to get through the brainwashing that the regime conducts on a daily basis.

There are so many things that are wonderful and striking about this book. Because of Kim’s limited perspective, the book is deeply personal and focuses almost exclusively on Kim’s reactions to life at PUST, her students and what she discovers through working with them.

I was struck, over and over again, at how much they were like any other college-aged men, curious about girls and excited about sports, while simultaneously holding worldviews that make absolutely no sense to anyone with even the most basic knowledge of the outside world. Kim writes at one point that her students constantly lied to her, but that it was never malicious… just what they’d be groomed to do.

While I wouldn’t say that Without You, There Is No Us is an enjoyable book to read, once I got into the story I had a hard time putting it down. North Korea is probably the most unknown and unknowable place in the world, and while this memoir offers just a glimpse into that country, I think it is an important and well-done look.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review consideration from the publisher. 

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Currently | Rejuvenated by Reading

October 19, 2014 Currently

Time and Place | Just after 1 p.m. on my couch with the Vikings game on the background. I’ve been awake for awhile, but spent the morning chilling out with Gilmore Girls. Eating and Drinking | I’ve got lots of Readathon snacks left for today — gummi bears, peanut butter cups, and cheese rice cakes. Yum. Reading | There was […]

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Happy Fall 2014 Readathon!

October 18, 2014 Readathon

Whee! Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon is finally here! I have seriously been looking forward to this day all week. Work has been a little insane and I could really use a day devoted (almost) entirely to reading. I’ll be doing most of my Readathon updates on Twitter (@kimthedork) and Instagram (kimthedork). I’m also planning to update this post with […]

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The Readathon is Coming!

October 16, 2014 Readathon

The Readathon is coming! This Saturday, October 18 is Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon, one of my favorite book nerd days of the year. While I love the spring Readathon, I think the fall Readathon is my favorite — fall always feels like the right time to cuddle in and spend the day with books. I’ll have […]

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The Lost Story of ‘The Lost Tribe of Coney Island’

October 13, 2014 Book Review

American history is full of grand moments, terrible moments and what were they thinking moments. The Lost Tribe of Coney Island by Claire Prentice is about one of those strange moments in history made even more bizarre by of the actions of carnival huckster who turned out to be a bigamist and a criminal. From the book […]

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Currently | Football Games and Gilmore Girls

October 12, 2014 Currently

Time and Place | 12:15 p.m. on my couch with my laptop and the Vikings game Eating and Drinking |  Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups — I need to find some real lunch soon. Reading | I didn’t have nearly enough reading time this week, but when I did grab a book I picked up The Lost Tribe […]

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Nonfiction November is Coming Back!

October 9, 2014 Communities

Last year, my dear book blogging friend Leslie (Regular Rumination) asked me if I’d be interested in joining her in a personal challenge to read and write exclusively about nonfiction in November. After we talked a little more, we decided that it would be fun to open up the project to host a low-key celebration of […]

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On Paying Attention to Reading Diversely

October 7, 2014 Musings

Since 2010, I’ve been very intentional about keeping track of all the books I read, along with some basic statistics about them. In addition to things like genre and format, I also tracked, primarily out of curiosity, author gender. As it turns out, without much intentional effort, I tend to read about equal or slightly […]

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Currently | Kicking Off the Season with a Big Book

October 5, 2014 Currently

Time and Place | 9 a.m. at my dad’s computer in the Twin Cities Eating and Drinking | Just water for the moment, but my Grandma is coming over for brunch a bit later so I’m sure we’ll have something delicious. Reading | This week has been all about The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. This book, you […]

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